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Very interesting article on hacking (literally) PIC microprocessors

Discussion in 'Electronics & Electrics' started by Foliage, Apr 29, 2010.

  1. Foliage

    Foliage Member

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    This guy sure does have too much spare time on his hands, it is still very interesting to see how a supposedly securely device can be hacked. How reliable it is is no doubt questionable, but if you were dedicated enough I'm sure you could do it.

    Source: http://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?page_id=40
     
  2. schmoove

    schmoove Member

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    I read it all, and it was very interesting.
    I understood some of it, but the main part I don't understand is this; what are these kind of chips found in and what is he hacking?
    He's hacking a chip - great - but what's the point?
    What is the practical application for this?

    (I'm certain there is a point; I just don't know what it is.)
     
  3. Menthu_Rae

    Menthu_Rae Member

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    Dude, micros are used in everything. PIN access systems, fan/motor control, industrial control systems, etc.

    The point of it is:

    "Quite often, a legitimate need arises to read out the contents of a secured, programmed PIC. A typical example is a company that has lost the documentation or the personnel that originally created the codes for a secured PIC. This often happens when a company needs to revise or upgrade a legacy line of products."

    Besides that, the point is to try to find a way around the controls put in. I believe it also has security implications - because if the micros are ever stolen - someone (very talented) could possibly reconstruct the program/code or find holes/flaws in it. So in doing seeing (and proving) if this is possible - it can help Microchip and other companies develop better controls/locks - which helps make these devices in industry more secure.

    (If anyone more knowledgeable disagrees, please enlighten me - I'm only going from dealing with micros and assembly/C in 2 subjects at Uni)
     
  4. Goth

    Goth Grumpy Member

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    Basically, these microcontrollers have what is called code protection.

    Once you've flashed your program onto the chip, you can choose to set the chip into a mode which prevents the contents of the flash memory from being read back off the chip. You might do this, for example, because you don't want any customer or competitor to simply read off the program code, and then either hack your device or make cheap clones of it.

    Bypassing this protection and reading out the contents of the flash memory is what's being done here.
     
  5. OP
    OP
    Foliage

    Foliage Member

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    This.

    ..and this.

    Basically it means that peoples protected code can be copied and duplicated, reverse engineered and re sold. Or it could have a legitimate use such as when the source code is lost and the company can't afford to re-develop it from scratch. I imagine a similar technique could be used with Atmel AVR chips as well.

    edit:

    Found another article on a similar topic!
    http://www.break-ic.com/topics/crack-ic.asp
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2010
  6. @rt

    @rt Member

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    A lot of people suddenly became interested when the first pic satellite pay TV cards surfaced (Ausgold).
    Breaking the protection on the 16F876 would mean being able to retrieve the
    card's private keys and reproducing the cards to sell them.

    Similar techniques were used successfully on original pay TV cards to retrieve their keys
    (power glitch, nitric acid).
     
  7. NanoDuke

    NanoDuke Member

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  8. dohzer

    dohzer Member

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    Reading the Sparkfun fake AVR article I take it. :)
    It's an interesting topic. I just like looking at cool pictures of dies: http://www.flylogic.net/blog/. :)
     

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